The folks at Neon Tommy, the USC School of Communication and Journalism publication, have written an open letter to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's director of public health, asking him to be more forthcoming about how the county is dealing with the 57-death swine flu outbreak here. So far they've heard crickets.

Neon Tommy recently obtained the county's H1N1-related death certificates, but not without a fight. But the publication finds that Fielding, a public official accountable to the tax payers of the county, is less than willing to deal with their pesky questions.

On Wednesday on KCRW (89.9 FM) show Which Way L.A. Fielding declined to address direct inquiries from Neon Tommy's Callie Schweitzer. Oh how we love aloof public servants who think they are above dealing with the press and the democratic process. Maybe we should call it the department of private health.

Apparently Neon Tommy feels the same and has written open letter to Fielding which reads, in part:

“What is the process for hospitals and physicians reporting swine flu deaths? What exactly are the 2,000 health department workers devoted to the influenza epidemic doing? What's the process for fixing death certificates so that they accurately list H1N1 after post-death tests, which can take up to eight weeks?”

Fielding actually reported that the county has seen 78 swine flu deaths since spring, up from Neon Tommy's count of 57. But Fielding is not accessible to say why. He's a smart and slippery character who has managed to hang on to his job throughout the controversy over the mismanagement of the mostly closed Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

What we find really strange is that, while Fielding buttons his lips in the face of public inquiry, the county Department of Public Health offers a speaker's bureau specifically to provide information on swine flu. Bizarre.

Spotted at LAObserved.

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